Another step forward in battling opioid crisis

The seriousness with which the state’s elected leaders view the opioid crisis was reflected in the overwhelming, bipartisan support for a series of reforms aimed at improving the situation. The bill containing the reforms received unanimous approval in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who began the session by submitting his ideas, which the General Assembly then incorporated into the final legislation, plans to sign it.

In addressing the passage of the bill, Malloy was on target in calling the opioid issue “a complex crisis that does not have one root cause, nor does it have simple solution.” But the legislation approved in the recent session is part of the solution.

Two provisions stand out: requiring insurance plans to cover detoxification deemed medically necessary; and requiring acceptance into detoxification programs individuals who want to get clean, even if they are not presently intoxicated.

Both these items would seem to make so much sense that they would not need the backing of state law. Unfortunately, those focused on the opioid addiction problem said getting insurers to cover expenses, and requirements that patients be high on drugs before entering a program to get off them, remain major impediments for those wanting to get straight.

Another change moves in the direction of having all painkiller prescriptions electronically submitted to pharmacies, an effort to cut down on forgeries. It does provide an exemption for practices that do not have the “technological capacity” for electronic prescriptions. In a subsequent session the legislature should sunset that exemption. Doctors need to get with the 21st century.

The bill requires doctors prescribing opioid painkillers to discuss the risks with patients, something that should be happening anyway.

What the bill doesn’t provide is money for more beds or for technological improvements to better utilize the detox facility beds that are available. This is the product another crisis, the state’s projected $5 billion budgetary shortfall projected over the next two years.

But the steps being taken by Connecticut should improve its standing in competing for the $1 billion in federal funds available to states through the Mental Health Reform Act, passed late in 2016.

This challenge confronting society can at times appear overwhelming, but from the community level, to our health and judicial systems, to the halls of power, Connecticut is chipping away at it step by step.

 

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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